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Laser Cutting and Engraving FAQ

What is Laser Cutting and Engraving

Laser cutting and engraving is a process that uses a laser to engrave or cut material. The laser cutter is a "printer" to the computer. Instead of ink the system uses a laser burn away material or cut through material.

NOTE: All of the images are links. Click on any of the images to see a larger version in a new window.

Side Effects

Smoke and Burn Marks from Laser CuttingThere are some side effects. When material is cut smoke is produced. This smoke can leave a stain on the material. When cutting products like plywood, a residue is produced due to the glue used in the product. The heat of the laser can also cause small "burn" marks on the material being cut or etched. The marks are cosmetic and depending on the material can be sanded off, cleaned off or covered with paint or stain. How well the stain "covers" depends on the color of the stain.

Pencil Marks

Pencil Marks Some products require glue and aligning. To aid in the gluing and aligning pencil marks need to be make on some of the pieces. These marks might be visible, but are not visible when the parts are put together for game play.

Laser Materials

The laser can only cut or engrave certain materials. Wood and acrylic are the most common, but it can also cut or engrave paper, leather and cardboard. It cannot cut metals, but it can engrave them with limitations. It does not really engrave the metals, but it can "mark" the surface if the metal is prepared correctly. It can also be used to selectively remove powder coating and paint.

You cannot cut PVC or vinyl. When the laser cuts or engraves the PVC or vinyl the smoke that is created is corrosive and destructive to the laser cutter

Here is a more comprehesive list of Laser Cutting Materials.

Birch Plywood

Birch Plywood PlugBaltic Birch or Russian Birch plywood is a multi ply wood with an outside layer of Birch. It is virtually knot free, but has plugs. Plugs are oval shaped pieces of wood inserted into the top layer to replace a defect in the wood. Basically the knots have been removed and replaced. I try to avoid the plugs or place them on the bottom.

Acrylic

Pencil MarksJust about the most common type of plastic that is laser cut or engraved is acrylic. It comes in many colors and thicknesses including clear. If the laser is set correctly when cutting acrylic it will leave a polished edge from the heat of the laser. I currently have access to over 25 different colors in 1/8";

I can also get some of the colors in 1/16", 3/16", 1/4" and 3/8" thick acrylic.

Oil Finish Color Test

I have posted some information on how different oils look.

Engraving Text

Pencil Marks

I can engrave in just about any font. I have all the standard Windows fonts and a number of extra fonts. Not all fonts look good when engraved. I did a test of some fonts to show how they look engraved in wood. The left column is the same text repeated in different fonts. The right column in the image is the name of the font. This is is just a small sample of the fonts available.